position S035 19.100 E174 07.200

Ocean Rival Journey Log
Adam Power Diana Power
Thu 25 Apr 2019 19:59

Saturday 20th April
Back in Opua after a stop over in China. Here are a few pics and recollections from the Chinese tour.

We arrived in Beijing in the morning and found our little hotel. The taxi driver had considerable difficulty in hunting it down, tucked away in a rabit warren of hutongs (narrow back streets) with just room for a car and a bicycle to pass. A security code was required to get through the door but as the code was printed beside the key pad the security aspect was dubious.
Inside a girl in chinese silk welcomed us and then fetched another girl who spoke a little english and showed us our room. The hotel comprised about 6 rooms round a tiny courtyard with just room for a tree and a breakfast table.  The room was also compact but very comfy and well apointed with all mod cons (en-suite & kettle). The girl showed us the toaster, the rice boiler and egg steamer and told us to help ourselves to breakfast in the morning.
After dumping our bags we headed out to explore Beijing aware from our taxi ride  that the size of the city was rather on a different scale to Norwich or even London.  The girl in the hotel has given us a postage stamp sized map of our immediate surroundings and that helpfuly marked the train station a few blocks north. I knew that I had to pick up our tickets for the journeys to Xi'An and Chengu that I had pre-booked on line so we headed for that.  We soon discovered that the scale of the map was designed for bicycling rather than walking (and nowadays chinese bikes mostly have electric motors) so walking was going to be challenging. We made the station though and found the tickets with only one false queue at the wrong part of the station. We fueled up with a bowl of noodles from a station  cafe and headed out thinking we could walk to Tianamen square which was worryingly off our map.
Temple of Heaven
Looking lost at a street corner we were befriended by 2 chinese ladies who professed to be school teachers, keen to practice their english. They dismissed our Tianamen square idea and said they were on their way the the Temple of Heaven and would show us the way via the Metro. The metro is one of many modern chinese wonders-for 5 yen (about 50p) you can get from one side of the city to the other. The ticket machines have english translations and the trains fly through every 30 seconds or so.  Our journey was only a couple of yen and our new guides showed us the metro ropes.  They then jumped the queue for the temple and told us to show our passports at the tickets office giving us free entry for OAP's- a trick we used frequenly thereafter throughout our trip. After a quick temple tour we were still under the wings of our teachers and they suggested tea-great idea we said feeling like a brew. The tea house was a very smart shop with us as the only customers with a traditional chinese tea service administered by a girl in traditional costume who served 4 different types of tea in little cups each giving different heath benefits. She then very skilfuly sold us some tins of expensive tea and charged handsomely for the tea seminar. 
£100 poorer we had asked our guides about a better map and we were shepherded on the pretext of finding a bookstore through an underground car park to an office where the ladies showed us a range of chinese scrolls and trinkets that they could offer us at special prices. Diana,  realising that the teachers may not be quite all they claimed to be put on a good act of feeling faint in the small windowless room and we made our excuses and took our leave.   I think as scams go we were actually given good value -if only they had admitted to being tourist guides rather than teachers I would have been happy with the service. Later we saw the same scrolls at similar prices in all the tourist shops, so the scam wasn't particularly pernicous (althought the tea was expensive and I'm sure they got a cut).
We managed to find our way back to the hotel (more by luck than judgement) and I found a take away stall selling skewers of dubious meats for a take away supper in the hotel courtyard.